The executive board of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has fully endorsed the invoking of the ITF charter on responding to corporate violations of workers’ rights against National Express by its North American member union the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the Teamsters). The charter triggers action across the ITF’s affiliate base when notification is given by a member union that a multinational company has breached core labour standards and/or is engaging in union busting activities.
Affiliates in the UK, where National Express is based, are leading condemnation of the company backed by unions from around the globe. A number of executive board members represent unions organising workers in countries where National Express operates, including in Spain, the Netherlands and Germany. The multinational is also seeking to grow its business in the Arab World specifically Morocco and Bahrain a region where the ITF has a strong and active presence.
During the executive board meeting ITF general secretary Steve Cotton said: “We’ve seen evidence of labour rights violations across the North American school bus operations of National Express and we have serious concerns over the systematic denial to workers of their right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. We are bringing affiliates together both in the UK and globally - to develop and execute actions to bring about a real change in the corporation’s behaviour. That’s what needs to happen and we won’t accept anything less.”
Steve Turner, assistant general secretary of UK affiliate Unite the Union added: “Multinational companies that think that they can isolate workers and treat them differently depending on where they are in the world and what power they have locally are wrong – we are a global family of trade unionists watching out for union busting activities across the globe. The actions of National Express in this instance are unacceptable and we are building the necessary coalition of trade unions and political leaders to put a stop to them.
"We’re seeking an urgent meeting with the chair and CEO of National Express to address these issues and hold the company here in its home country to account for the actions of its management teams across the globe, ending what is clearly a deliberate strategy to obstruct union organising efforts of our sister union in the US the Teamsters. Further, the board will be made acutely aware of shareholder concerns over the company’s decision to deny a resolution demanding an investigation into the group’s actions in the US at the forthcoming AGM. Attempting to shut down a legitimate debate among shareholders is undemocratic and an abuse of the board’s power that should raise wider concerns.
“Silencing shareholders, like threatening and intimidating workers or denying the basic international right to join a union, is not good business and the company’s reputation will be damaged as a result. We hope our message is clear and that the company will act urgently to change its approach.”